At Scottsville Baptist Church we kick off the holiday season by making Advent wreaths. On Sunday we lit the first purple candle. Soon the sanctuary will be adorned with greenery and a tree of Chrismons. Musicals, parties, caroling, missions, and candlelit services will fill December with joy.
Christmas is also great for all the holly, jolly Hallmark-y reasons. I can quote Elf and own a Clark W. Griswold t-shirt. Christmas is my jam. I love the holidays and I'm a glass half full lady; however for these first days of the Christian new year I listen to the contemplative, serious carols of the season.
The Christmas story in Matthew is not all tinsel and bows. Joseph was told in a dream that his family must leave Bethlehem. Herod was foaming at the mouth to destroy the Christ child, so in the dead of night Joseph woke his family and they hightailed it to Egypt. The holy family were refugees on the run.
Herod went on to commit atrocities so evil we don't like to speak them aloud any time of the year--much less at Christmas. Part of my Advent discipline is to listen to Coventry Carol and mourn that the world was not and is not as it should be.
Listening to serious carols during Advent is a way of lamenting brokenness--then and now. It is also a prayerful way of lifting up and remembering those who are not in a holly, jolly way this season. They sit beside us in the pews and next to us at work. People grieve the loss of loved ones. Ornaments and traditions hold memories--some of which are painful. Every family has broken relationships--sometimes seemingly beyond repair. The plight of refugees is real. Fleeing oppressors did not end with the holy family's journey to Egypt.
Pray this season to notice those for whom Christmas is complicated. Reach out to the lonely and weary. Make room at your table. Visit folks who are missing a spouse. Don't insist people emote in certain ways. Feel free to be cheerful, but make room grieving and tears.
Seek ways to aid refugees in your neighborhood. Look out for the widows and widowers and orphans. Give to missions and non-profits who minister to those in need. Read the entire Christmas story and reach out to the world.
Make room for serious carols during Advent. It's important.
"...and in His name all oppression shall cease."